“The problem of leading a Christian life in a non-Christian society is now very present to us…. And as for the Christian who is not conscious of his dilemma—and he is in the majority—he is becoming more and more de-Christianized by all sorts of unconscious pressure: paganism holds all the most valuable advertising space.” -T.S. Eliot, The Idea of a Christian Society
I am beginning a new series called “Defending Your Faith 101.” This series will include information presented in our weekly Christian Apologetics class and additional information with links to articles, books and video presentations by top Christian Apologists to supplement. If you follow this blog over the next year, and/or attend classes, my hope and prayer is that you will have gone through enough “basic training” to qualify you to engage not only the secular culture that we live in today but Christians who are unsure of their own worldview and how to answer the tough questions that often cause doubt in their own lives.
“Basic training” becomes more important than ever with statistics showing the next generation rapidly leaving their faith to become part of the third largest religious group today: “Nones.” I’d like to start with an overview of some of those statistics as presented by reputable groups that keep a pulse on cultural developments, values, beliefs and religious trends: Barna, Gallup, Pew, Scientific America and Biola University. You can check the links for more detailed analysis.
Recent studies in America among practicing Christians who consider their faith important and attend church regularly, show that only 17% actually have a Biblical worldview. Unfortunately, Christians not having a worldview based on the Bible opens the door for “syncretism” (a blending of beliefs). This study points out four tenets of other worldviews that have infiltrated Christian beliefs:
- 61% of Christians agree with ideas rooted in the views of New Spirituality (examples: All people pray to the same god; meaning and purpose come from becoming one with all that is; if you do good you will receive good and vice-versa).
- 54% of Christians resonate with postmodernist views (examples: No one can know for certain what meaning and purpose there is to life; what is morally right or wrong depends on what an individual believes; if your beliefs offend someone it is wrong)
- 36% of Christians agree with ideas associated with Marxism (examples: Private property encourages greed and envy; the government, rather than individuals, should control as much of the resources as necessary to ensure that everyone gets their fair share; If the government leaves them alone, businesses will mostly do what’s right)
- 29% of Christians believe ideas based on secularism (examples: A belief has to be proven by science to know it is true; a person’s life is valuable only if society sees it as valuable; meaning and purpose come from working hard to earn as much as possible so you can make the most of life)
A study on the U.S. population in general shows that only 38% believe God created humans in their present form (the lowest reported in 35 years since Gallup started asking this question concerning creation/evolution). 38% also say humans evolved, but God guided the process. This study also showed that less-educated Americans are more likely to believe in creationism versus that of a college graduate or higher.
The implication in this report is that Bible believers are less educated, and more educated Bible believers will compromise their belief by saying God used evolution. The problem here is not necessarily in the beliefs of less or more educated people but in the constraints placed on those in higher education who could and would show evidence for creation via intelligent design. Anyone in public education that provides negative evidence against evolutionary theory in the study of origin, and positive evidence for design factors, has been deemed in defiance of separation of Church and state in public education, and even worse, some have lost their jobs and reputations over it.
One of the most alarming statistics is the rise in the religious category of “none” (or religiously unaffiliated). “Nones” have taken third place worldwide behind Christianity and Islam, moving Hinduism to fourth place. The Pew research center reported growing shares of those with low to medium levels of religious commitment identify with “nones.” In the 1970s and 80s fewer than 10% said they had “no religious affiliation.” Today fully 23% describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular.”
This study also indicates that among all U.S. adults, high religious commitment has dropped since 2007. This is specifically found in the ‘millennial’ age group with one out of four identifying as a “none.” Pew also documents that ‘millennials’ are the “least outwardly religious American generation ever. It is also widely reported that near three-quarters of people raised in homes that were to some degree ‘Christian’ will leave their faith and less than half of these will ever return to some level of church involvement.” Why is this happening?
To categorize the answers to the question of why, Dr. Alex McFarland cites the following 10 factors coming from interviews with teens, twenty-somethings, professed ex-Christians, and religion and culture experts:
- Mindset of “digital natives” is uniquely separate from other generations
- Breakdown of the family
- Militant secularism
- Lack of spiritual authenticity among adults
- The church’s cultural influence has diminished
- Pervasive cultural abandonment of morality
- Intellectual skepticism
- The rise of “atheism”
- The secularized teaching of tolerance above all else
- The commonly defiant posture of young adulthood
This report showed that incoming students who list their religious affiliation as “none” has skyrocketed, tripling in the last 30 years according to data from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program’s (CIRP) Freshman survey of more than 137,000 first-time students at 184 colleges and universities in the US. This provides a snapshot of the trend in the current generation of young adults and a preview of projected rapid secularization in the US over the next 30 years. In addition, the number of students who said they attended religious services “frequently” or “occasionally” fell from 85% in 1990 to 69% in 2016.
Here’s some good new: E. Scott Martin, national director of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, says “many students who claim no affiliation are nevertheless responsive to the Gospel. We have discovered that although they are non-religious, they are not non-spiritual… when these students are presented with the authentic Gospel of Jesus and see a role model living out his (or her) message, they are open to hearing more, and many are responding to the call to follow Jesus. We are observing the greatest number of students coming to Jesus and being baptized than at any time in the history of Chi Alpha.”
Founder and Director of Biola’s M.A. program in Christian Apologetics and director of the M.A. program in science and religion, Craig Hazen, along with Larry Barnett, principal investigator with the Next Generation Project (projectnextgen.org) point out three main questions that the research is answering “YES” to:
- YES, it is true that young people are truly drifting away from the faith at an alarming rate more than ever before. The data show that compared to the 1970’s, evangelicals now have two to three times the loss rate among young adults raised in their churches and millennials are one-third less likely than their grandparents to be evangelical Christians.
- YES, serious intellectual doubts play a primary role in the rise of young people leaving their faith. The research shows that the more “unexpressed” doubts a young person has the more they felt distant from God, the less they prayed and the less they attended church. Doubt had a stronger impact on overall spiritual health than any other of several hundred factors examined.
- YES, thoughtful and persuasive responses to serious intellectual doubts go a long way toward keeping the losses from occurring. Compared to those who did not have doubts addressed in their church (or home), young people who were re-interviewed five years later had much better spiritual outcomes (more likely to pray, be involved in their church, read Scripture daily and cite a close personal relationship with God).
Conclusion: NOW, more than ever in our country’s history do we have the opportunity as Christians to understand the true purpose of what Jesus called us to do in His “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:19-20). NOW, more than ever is the call for “basic training” in Christian Apologetics necessary for all Christian. NOW, more than ever should we be ready to defend our faith by knowing what we believe and why we believe it, then boldly and confidently share those truths with others.
Urgent prayer request: Please continue to join me in prayer for Nabeel Qureshi and his family. Pray for God’s healing hand to work a miracle in Nabeel’s life and for God’s peace and comfort that passes all understanding for him and his family. Amen
Join us next week as we continue to make a case for Christianity!
You will not find this material in the public school curriculum even though it is based on solid evidence and grounded in research. It is ironic that following the evidence to where it leads stops at the door of our public schools as they will not let a “Divine footprint” in! Join us as we examine evidence for Christianity and learn how to become a thoughtful defender and ambassador of your faith.
Click into the resource page of this website to view many of the top Christian thinkers and apologists along with some of their work; connecting to these types of resources is essential in your Christian growth.
Please let me know what you think: Give feedback, ask questions or send concerns in the comment section of the blog.